‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’
It would be easy to think that, according to tradition, Pride is not a virtue. For those who know the list, pride is one of the seven deadly sins.
And certainly, we can understand that those who think themselves better than others because of the advantages they have had by their birth, by their social or economic position, their education, and who are so proud of it as to diminish others around them, those actually seem to love themselves much, but not necessarily love others.
This misplaced pride, full of hubris, is symptomatic of a complete imbalance between ourselves and the other, and is the antithesis of healthy and positive relationships.
And in a sense, true to Jesus’ words, it is right that the church wanted to try to warn us to do something about that, and to make pride a bad thing.
Today, we celebrate another pride, a pride completely in accordance with Jesus’ words when He tells us: you will love your neighbour as yourself.
Religious tradition over the centuries has been very good at forgetting these two words, but they are crucial. Because how could we love others if we do not know ourselves deeply, and if we do not manage to love ourselves.
Because unfortunately, to love oneself is not obvious for anyone, it is an everyday work, except perhaps for the narcissistic personalities.
Indeed, as our life unfolds, we realize that perhaps we are not as handsome, tall, blond, charming as we would like. Perhaps our physical and sporting performances are not as good, our intellectual faculties are not quite as sharp as we would like, our family not as well as we would have liked. So many factors that challenge our minds as we develop, as we grow, and as we become who we are.
And for LGBTQ teens, the anguish of feeling at odds with our friends, unlike them not interested in the other sex, but in ours. Or the anguish of not identifying with either gender. Or feeling that something is really wrong and that we are in a body of the wrong kind.
Many opportunities to feel different and not be able to love oneself, and to be afraid that others won’t love us – especially if we feel isolated and alone in a hostile world, especially outside big cities, without models…
In these conditions, we are not proud, and on the contrary we may be ashamed of what we are, afraid of the reaction of others, and certainly marginalized by the God in whom we may believe, but of whom we believe we are not worthy, and may not even be acceptable.
Some are so ashamed of themselves that for them, suicide becomes an outlet.
I myself went through all these phases, raised in a provincial town in northern France, and educated in a Catholic college. At the age of 12, I remember thinking very consciously: if God does not love me as I am, I do not need God.
But it was God who had the last word
I was lucky to move to London in the 1980s, at the height of the LGBT liberation campaign. At the time, homosexuality was still illegal for those under 21. It was another era, another world.
Although I was not religious at the time, I got involved in the Anglican Church because of my love for music, and the organ in particular, and I met a research community there where the LGBTQ issue was discussed in public, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. And I got involved in the LGBTQ cause in the parish, and also in the structures of the church in England.
And so I finally discovered a God who accepts me and loves me as I am, a God who has an extremely keen sense of humor since here I am here today, a God who, contrary to the ideas of some, rejoices that I can live my life fully.
In the same way that God called Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and even Mary, individuals who before their call might have remained insignificant, but whose role in the history of God’s people changed radically when they responded – ‘I am here’ – in response to their call, we are invited today to do the same.
God calls us all to be proud of who we are, and God calls us all to respond to this call. A call that affirms us and gives us strength, a call that asks us to be part of those who help others to discover that they too can be proud of who they are.
And this week of pride that we celebrate in Montreal, as it is celebrated around the world, is one of the highlights during which – publicly and with many colours – we are visible to the world in our great diversity.
It is a great colourful festival that shows the best – and perhaps sometimes the worst – of what we are, and gives hope to all those who are still trapped in fear and doubt that God also calls them to live their lives, their lives in all their fullness.
With the freedoms we have gained in the countries of the West, we might sometimes feel a little tired of the idea of walking again.
But there are still so many countries where celebrating pride is still illegal, or homosexality is punishable by prison or more. And even here, the freedoms acquired are at the mercy of reactionary politicians, and there are still so many families who reject their children because they are different, because of their sexual orientation, or because of their transgender exploration. It is still essential that all together, with all God’s people, we make ourselves prophets, that we walk and that we proclaim that yes, we are proud of who we are, a perfect and beloved creation of God.